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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1878


Senator BOSWELL(5.00) —It is with great pleasure that I enter this debate today because, as a person who has genuinely been a small business man, I do want to raise in Canberra some problems faced by small business people. The Government has put up three speakers, all union representatives. It has no members who can represent small business. We have Senator Cook over there who was a union representative and Senator Richardson was also a union representative.


Senator Richardson —I never worked for a trade union; you are wrong again.


Senator BOSWELL —I apologise; he worked for the political party. Even on the front bench we had the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) who was a teacher. There is no one who can represent the voice of small business . As indicated by an Opposition senator, the Government's policies have not worked. Only three or four policies out of 32 have actually been implemented and as recently as a couple of days ago, with only weeks to go to the elections, Senator Button introduced the Petroleum Retail Marketing Franchise Amendment Bill as some sort of sop to the small business community.

Small business is terribly concerned at the moment about increasing on-costs. We see one on-cost after another. The National Economic Summit Conference completely neglected small business. It had a very token representation from small business and small business has only one representative on the Economic Planning Advisory Council. It is a complete farce because small business provides jobs for 60 per cent of the people employed in Australia and yet it has only one representative for all those employees. Rural groups, too, have found that they have been absolutely neglected, having only one representative on EPAC .

The Australian Council of Trade Unions does not assist small business; it works against it. The might of the ACTU, in tandem with the Labor Party Government, has helped to impose on small business severance and redundancy pay which, based on the ACTU's own figures, will cost $165m. Superannuation payments will put on- costs up by 5 per cent. Together with increased wage costs these are the things that concern small business. There is panic in the small business sector at the moment. People in the manufacturing industry are absolutely concerned. They cannot become any more efficient. They have the most up to date and efficient machinery in the world yet they cannot compete because one on-cost after another is imposed upon them. They have come to me and said that if this severance pay comes in, they will have to close down their businesses. I have been told that on numerous occasions.


Senator Robert Ray —By whom?


Senator BOSWELL —By numerous manufacturers.


Senator Robert Ray —Name them.


Senator BOSWELL —Before I name anyone in this House I want to clear it with them but I assure Senator Ray that I have been told on not one, not two but dozens of occasions that this redundancy pay claim-which this Government, which says it supports small business, went to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and backed-will have a great effect. This is the thing that most upsets small business. They do not see a way out. I employed 10 people and had a small business for 18 years but I never enjoyed sacking anyone. I never wanted to do it but the point is that there are times when one has to do it because of the economic situation or climatic conditions. Staff numbers may have to be reduced. One has to have the ability to manoeuvre and shed staff for one's own self-preservation, and Senator Richardson should be the first to understand that . The prices and incomes accord has been a miserable and total failure for small business. It is a contract between the ACTU and the Australian Labor Party to look after the employed and not the unemployed, or small business. During 1983, on-costs increased by 14 per cent under the Labor Government. Small business cannot afford such an increase. Mr Deputy President, this has been during the time of your Labor Government.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Boswell, you should address your remarks through the Chair. It is not my Labor Government.


Senator BOSWELL —I am sorry; I did not mean to say it was your Government. I know you would not want to be associated with the Labor Government. Many businesses are budgeting for the same rate of on-costs next year. The superannuation scheme will cost $11 a week per wage earner, and that will increase on-costs a further 5 per cent. How can anyone cop $11 a week and still stay in business? Yet, this is the sort of thing that Senator Richardson, Senator Ray and the Minister, Senator Ryan, do not understand. Why should they understand? They have never been involved in small business and they have never had to pay the weekly wage cheque or front the angry bank manager. They do not understand and never will understand small business. I recommend to Senator Richardson, who is the numbers man, that he allow me to advise him on finding someone in small business who the Labor Party could get into Parliament. I do not think he would find anyone silly enough to join his Party. The Labor Party needs someone who really understands the small business area of Australia.

Small business employs more people than any other industry. It pays more tax. Yet the Treasurer (Mr Keating)-I want to bring this point firmly home to the small business people of Australia-said in Queensland that the people in small business were a mob of whingers. He said they could not live in a world of their own. All they wanted to do was go to the Treasurer and say: 'Look, we can't keep taking these increases'. What did he do? With total insensitivity, he got up and told them to stop whinging and complaining. That is a shocking way to treat a business sector that employs more people in Australia than any other sector. Small business can take up the unemployment slack, particularly the young unemployed. Small business led the recovery in the United States; it has put people in jobs. In the United States, small business has caused a drop in unemployment from 10.7 per cent to 7.5 per cent. It has put 6.3 million people in work, compared with big business which has shed 2.2 million jobs. The important thing to recognise is that the actual cost of wages and on-costs fell by 2.8 per cent. If we want small business to pick up the recovery and to improve unemployment figures by providing more jobs-it is the greatest job creator in this nation--


Senator Robert Ray —And we are doing it.


Senator BOSWELL —The Government is not doing it. It is actually killing small business. The Government had a bit of a kick along when the drought broke and when the overseas recovery took place but Australia's economic situation will crash right down around its ears in another 12 months, if it has not started to crash now.


Senator Crowley —Not before 1 December.


Senator BOSWELL —That is a good point. The Government is racing to the polls with indecent haste because it is terrified that the whole thing will crash down around its ears.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time allotted under sessional order for the consideration of the matter of public importance has expired.